Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

Victim Consciousness isn’t What You Think it is

A concept I’ve seen a lot over the ten years I’ve been involved in spirituality is this notion of “victim consciousness.” It’s the term that New Agers like to use to describe anyone who seemingly isn’t taking 100% full responsibility for their experiences.

Some ways I’ve seen this used include (these are direct quotes):

“Blaming another is forfeiting your personal power.”

 

“Dear Black People…Why do I say ‘All Lives Matter? instead of ‘Black Lives Matter‘?…Because the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ DISEMPOWERS YOU. It is keeping you chained up in victimhood.

 

Sex you regret is not the same thing as Rape. Accepting yourself for making a decision you regret is key…not venturing into a Victim identity. Women don’t realize that Victim Culture has robbed them of all sovereignty.”

 

“Yes we need to learn but if traumas don’t require a lesson then how do you come out of victim consciousness?” (In response to the statement “Not all traumas were caused by mistakes that require a lesson to avoid repeating them. In fact, most serious traumas weren’t mistakes on the part of the victim. They weren’t events summoned by their unconscious or their karma to teach them something they need to learn. They were victimizations. They were attacks.”)

Learn more about why we don’t manifest abuse.

These people think that acknowledging when another person or group of people have violated your personal boundaries and your OWN SOVEREIGNTY is “victim consciousness.” In other words…they think that telling someone that what they did to you was not okay is being “a victim.” That’s not victim consciousness, that’s victim shaming, and it enables abusive behavior to continue unchecked, and it empowers abusers because it protects them from consequences. It places the full burden of responsibility for abusive behavior on the person who is being harmed.

When you’re at home minding your own business and someone bursts in through your front door and shoots you, that’s murder and nobody says, “Don’t blame that guy who burst in through your front door, or you’re forfeiting your personal power.” Well, unless you’re Black, the person who murdered you is a police officer and your name is Breonna Taylor.

So why does anyone apply this shit to rape and racism? Because that’s what narcissistic abusers do. They gaslight their victims into believing the abuse is their fault, thereby absolving themselves of any responsibility or accountability.

People who believe they must make themselves accountable for all of the times they’ve been victimized are usually victims of narcissistic abuse and suffering from codependency. People who tell others that they are accountable for all the times they have victimized said other are narcissistic abusers, and when this is being done utilizing spirituality as an excuse, it’s called spiritual bypassing.

Learn more about narcissistic abuse.

Who Does Have a Victim Mentality?

There actually are people out there who have victim mentalities, or victim consciousness–whatever you want to call it. And the irony is that those people are often the abusers, themselves.

Victim mentality is a key indicator of narcissism. If the narcissist can make their victims responsible for their actions and emotions, then they aren’t responsible for doing anything wrong.

How do people develop this kind of victim mentality? By having the same thing done to them by other narcissists.

When a person is constantly gaslit to believe they are responsible for other people’s attacks, they may do one of two things: accept that responsibility and become codependent, or deny that responsibility and see every attempt to hold them accountable as an attack, thus assuming an actual victim mentality. And once that line is crossed, they move from being an abuse victim to an active abuser, because they begin using the same gaslighting tactics on others to protect themselves that were used on them to begin with.

Learn more about codependency and narcissism.

How can you avoid true victim consciousness?

Know your boundaries and understand what healthy boundaries look like for others. Abuse occurs when boundaries are crossed, and knowing those edges inside and out will help you understand when abuse is happening, and when it isn’t, and that nuance is the difference between actual abuse and a victim mentality.

Learn more about the nuance of boundaries and bypassing.

Xo,

Ash

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Do We Really Have Free Will?

Do We Really Have Free Will?

Do We Really Have Free Will?

I‘ve never really bought into the concept that humans truly have free will, and there’s a variety of spiritually-based reasons for that, but one of the biggest reasons isn’t spiritual at all.

In order to have have free agency of our own will, we have to be a free thinker, and the truth is, very few of us actually are.

Humans, bizarre little ego-centric creatures that we are, believe that we have the freedom of choice in all that we do, as though we have total internal autonomy over what goes on inside our minds. And of course we would think that–we mistakenly believe that the rational mind is the king of our world.

Most of us spend very little time examining our motivations for the choices we make and the beliefs we hold, our biases, our fears, or put any kind of thought into how all of that unexamined subconscious shit informs our so-called rational choices.

Learn how to identify your belief systems

Reason vs. Logic

Humans are rational creatures, not logical creatures. Reason and logic are not the same thing.

All a rationale is, is an explanation about how you came to your conclusion. It doesn’t mean it’s the right conclusion, or that it’s a logical conclusion, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re being honest with yourself about your motivations, or that you understand the psychological factors that are driving your behavior.

People tell themselves all kinds of stories about why they do what they do. Many of them are lies.

True free will–and true free thinking–can only be found when we begin to uncover and understand our subconscious mind. Until then, we are susceptible to all kinds of bias, propaganda, and distorted belief systems.

As an acquaintance of mine on Instagram once wrote: if you’re not facing your shadow, you’re getting fucked by it. – @rainierwylde

Learn more about shadow work and it’s role in spirituality

PS – lots of you wanted me to open back up the question submission, so I’ve added that to the post footer. Can’t wait to see what your questions are!

Xo,

Ash

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Energy Polarity: How to Balance Feminine and Masculine Energies

Energy Polarity: How to Balance Feminine and Masculine Energies

Energy Polarity: How to Balance Feminine and Masculine Energies

Question from a reader:

“How do you balance masculine and feminine energies?”

This is a topic I’ve not covered much on my site at all, but haven’t touched on briefly in my Instagram stories, which received a lot of positive feedback. This question was submitted there and I thought I’d post my response here as well!

Firstly, for the readers who aren’t aware, everyone has masculine and feminine energy within them and it has absolutely nothing to do with gender or gender roles. Masculine and feminine energy exists within us as a spectrum. You might find yourself at any place on that spectrum throughout the day, and you probably find yourself somewhere on that spectrum as a baseline.

For a brief explanation about how that works and what it means, please read my encyclopedia entries on the divine feminine here and the divine masculine here.

Feminine and masculine energy as it presents within a human being can loosely be thought of as right brain qualities and left brain qualities, with some exceptions.

Being in your higher masculine energy might look like taking action, setting boundaries, strategizing, leadership, analyzing, or standing up for a cause. Being in your higher feminine energy might look like listening, holding space, feeling your emotions, feeling your intuition, nurturing someone, pleasure, or creativity. You ebb and flow through these states of being all day every day.

Being in your toxic masculine energy looks like domination, control, force–or–total avoidance, lack of accountability, zoning out, not being present, and irresponsibility. Being in your toxic feminine energy looks like unbridled rage, silent treatment, manipulation, victimhood, codependency, and insecurity.

When we talk about balancing these two energies, we do NOT mean having equal amounts of feminine and masculine energy, we mean balancing the shadow of each each energy. An imbalance in one energy creates an imbalance in the other, for example: when you’re toxic masculine energy avoids accountability, your toxic feminine energy responds with victimhood. Bringing one or the other of those energies into balance will automatically recalibrate the other.

Understanding which is which helps you cultivate more of what you need in any given moment. You might want to be in your masculine energy when you want to get shit done. You might want to be in your feminine energy when you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself or doing creative brainstorming and envisioning what you want to create.

That’s right–that vision that so many leaders and CEOs are lauded for? That’s their feminine energy. Their ability to execute that vision is their masculine energy.

Balancing these energies is done in the same way that everything else is done: through self-awareness, practice, and healing energy blocks. You may find that certain people’s energy inadvertently puts you in your masculine or your feminine. Pay attention to how you react to others. Are those reactions pleasant or are they uncomfortable? Maybe your inner-masculine needs to be more assertive and set boundaries. Or perhaps your inner-feminine needs to learn how to relax and surrender to the flow of life.

As I mentioned earlier, intuition is feminine energy. One of my tips for those looking to develop psychic abilities is to stop “trying” to make it happen (which is being in your masculine), and instead, release control and allow it to happen (which is relaxing into your feminine).

As I discussed in the previously linked articles, this energy is present not just in us as human beings, but in the universe as. a whole.

You can think of things like the collective as being a feminine energy because we are all connected by an unknown, unseen energetic bond and through our empathy for one another. You can think of the individual and the ego as a masculine energy because it’s based in what is tangible and rational.

When one or the other of these is out of balance, you get codependency and narcissism. When they are in balance, you have a healthy, harmonious individual–and a healthy, harmonious society.


I haven’t done a Q&A post in a really long time, in fact, I took the question submission box off of my site several years ago because people kept submitting the same questions over and over, and also submitting questions that they should have been asking someone in a psychic reading. But, it’s been a few years now and my content has pivoted quite a bit as well as my audience, so I’m considering opening the question submission form back up–this time I won’t respond to every question submitted, I’ll only pick the ones that that are on topics I haven’t covered or things that I think sound interesting. Is this something you guys would be interested in? Vote below!

Xo,

Ash

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How Some Spiritual Beliefs Breed Codependency

How Some Spiritual Beliefs Breed Codependency

How Some Spiritual Beliefs Breed Codependency

Since January, I’ve been “inspired” quite a bit to write about modern New Age spirituality’s relationship with narcissism, which is quite strong these days.

In my previous post “How Separation Consciousness Masks Itself In Spirituality” I talked about how Individualism in the West creates a me-centric version of spirituality which ignores the fact that we are co-creating with a collective, places the greatest emphasis on the self, and ultimately results in a form of overt spiritual narcissism/god complex where adherents believe they are literally the center of their own universe and everyone else on the planet is just something they manifested. This, of course, lends itself to a severe lack of empathy and social responsibility, because they then believe that everyone else on the planet has manifested their circumstances and simply need to change their thinking to manifest their way out.

A couple of weeks ago, I also posted in-depth about narcissistic empaths, how codependency is really a form of covert narcissism, and how this kind of “empath” and narcissism are actually two sides of the same narcissistic coin.

In today’s post, I’m taking all of these topics one step further and discussing how some very common concepts in New Age spirituality come from and create codependent mentalities.

What is Codependency?

Codependency: a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.

Like with narcissism, there’s a lot to unpack with codependency and a lot of it overlaps, depending on the specific situation. The most important aspects of note with regard to spirituality are:

Codependents often feel responsible for how other people feel and that underlying feeling of distress (usually guilt or shame attached to the subconscious belief that they are the cause of the other person’s emotional state) pushes them to want to “fix” the other person’s emotions and thus, regulate the energy in the room.

This is often confused for empathy, but it’s important to distinguish that the codependent isn’t actually feeling the other person’s emotions or acting out of care or empathy, they’re driven by their own sense of shame and guilt and the underlying motivation is to alleviate their own uncomfortable emotions, not those of the other person. And this is why codependency can be considered another form of narcissism: because this action is driven by self-interest and the other person’s emotions are (subconsciously) seen as an extension of the self.

How Spirituality Can Breed Codependency

Similar to how certain concepts in spirituality can breed a form of narcissism, those same concepts can also breed codependency.

  • You are the absolute creator of your reality
  • You are responsible for all of your negative experiences
  • Your scarcity mentality is responsible for your financial situation
  • No one will love you until you love yourself

Each of these platitudes encourages extreme independence from reality. So what happens when you buy into this mentality, you work on yourself, and things in your life don’t magically shift?

You probably being to use your external reality as a measuring stick for how healed you are. And any time someone or some situation shows up that creates discomfort, you ask yourself, “What haven’t I healed?”

I caught myself doing this recently with a connection to someone who, for all intents and purposes, is toxic, but whose energy won’t seem to leave me alone. It actually started to drive me a little bit batshit. I had cut cords a thousand times. I had healed. I had grieved. I had released. I had forgiven. I had moved on. And yet, we are still psychically linked for inexplicable reasons, and it bubbles up to the surface periodically.

Then one night in the shower it occurred to me: it’s not me. I’m not the problem. I’m not the one hanging on–it’s them. They haven’t completed their end of this karmic bargain by cleaning up after the consequences of their actions.

I had a similar realization when I was trying to date and 90% of the men I met were still awful. I thought it was me–that I hadn’t healed enough yet to attract great men. I was taking all of the responsibility for the people that I was running into on the street, more or less. Every terrible interaction was somehow a reflection of what was wrong with me. The truth was…it wasn’t me. It was them. There’s just a lot of shitty men out there and my healing had no effect on that percentage. I just had a much lower tolerance for their bullshit.

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!

I’d momentarily forgotten that we are co-creating our reality and that I don’t have any control over other people (or the world, for that matter). I only have agency over myself.

This idea that we are the supreme manifestors of our life and our reality teaches us that we are responsible for the toxic, abusive people and situations that come into our lives, that those people are reflections of us and whatever is unhealed within us, and that somehow, through obsessive self healing, we’ll be able to change that, or in the case of a lot of Twin Flame trash, that we’ll be able to heal another person…(how’s that for codependent thinking). And when it doesn’t happen, how much guilt and shame do you feel over your inability to succeed?

The reality is that healing ourselves doesn’t change what kinds of people or situations come into our lives–we can’t control or manipulate people in that way, and it’s quite delusional to think that we can or do.

There’s a difference between using situations in our lives as opportunities for self-reflection, and assuming that every situation is a reflection.

Healing teaches us discernment, and how to not find ourselves attracted to those people and situations. It teaches us boundaries and self-respect. And when you implement those changes in your life, you’ll choose differently, and certainly more wisely. It doesn’t mean you won’t still have to wade through a sea of garbage people to find gold, because a lot of the people on this planet are still holding shit energy, but you don’t have to be one of them.

Xo,

Ash

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Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Fear Is Not A Dirty Word

Let’s talk about fear.

In New Age spirituality, fear is probably the most demonized emotion. “Stop living in fear!” everyone likes to preach. And, you know, in some instances, this is a good thing to do. How many opportunities in life do we miss because we were simply afraid to take the risk and instead, stuck to our comfort zone?

In this case, the whole False Evidence Appearing Real narrative is somewhat correct. When we are afraid of failure, rejection, pain, of not being good enough, etc. it keeps us small. When we’re afraid of the boogeyman and things that go bump in the night, it keeps us on edge. Religion has used fear of Satan, Hell, and demons as a mechanism for control for centuries. All of these fears are based in total illusion or superstition with no foundation in reality.

Learn why fear-based beliefs are a distortion.

But there’s another kind of fear that has every basis in reality which serves as a biological survival instinct: fear of actual real and tangible danger. Like physical pain, without this evolutionary protection mechanism, the human race would be extinct. Fear in the face of clear and present danger is what keeps us alive.

Could you imagine telling a child not to look both ways before crossing the street because it’s considered “living in fear”? How about intentionally exposing yourself to a potentially deadly virus because wearing a mask was “living in fear”? Or maybe attempting to take a selfie with a wild buffalo at Yellowstone? You catch my drift. These are Darwin Award-worthy acts of stupidity, not conquering fear for any useful reason.

There’s a marked difference between fear-based beliefs and belief systems and actual bodily self-preservation.

Learn more about the difference between fear and danger.

On Pushing Through Fear and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Some people pride themselves on getting out of their comfort zones, and certainly, if you do what you’ve always did, get you’ll get what you’ve always to gotten. But like anything, this all depends on context.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before, like uprooting your entire life to move across the country with no safety net, and that scares you, that’s an opportunity you might miss because of your comfort zone. It might be worth the risk.

If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before that might actually violate your personal values or expose you to harmful relationship dynamics, that’s a whole other ballgame. That’s risky behavior because you don’t recognize risk when you see it.

Sometimes our comfort zones exist because we’ve been severely traumatized, and pushing ourselves out of them too fast, too soon is just like the trauma that created them in the first place. This is harmful.

Sometimes, because of abuse, we don’t actually fully understand what our comfort level is. We ignore our discomfort because that’s what our abusers taught us to do, and when we come up against some similar, subtle, but potentially harmful experiences, we stick around too long, not realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.

Those with people-pleasing or codependent tendencies are not great at recognizing risk or when their boundaries are being violated, and a lot of folks think that pushing through this is somehow conquering their fear in the name of spirituality.

If you’re a recovering people pleaser, or have a history of trauma and abuse, I urge you to ignore the comfort zone messaging on Instagram when it comes to really personal things like relationships, sex, and things which are directly tied to your physical and emotional well-being.

Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is a useful emotion that alerts us of danger. Fear only becomes detrimental when it becomes overprotective.

Pay attention to your discomfort. Explore it. Honor it. Sometimes it’s all in your head. But sometimes it’s there for a reason.

Xo,

Ash

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Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality’s Relationship With Mental Illness

Spirituality and mental illness have a complex relationship. My goal today is to talk about mental illness within the spiritual community in a way that can help those of you reading this recognize just how pervasive it is in the spiritual community and help you identify spiritual people–psychics, channels, influencers, whomever–suffering from mental illness, all the while without stigmatizing it.

I’m going to rely a lot on personal experiences to try to demonstrate this, both my own as well as those of a friend with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

Mental illness encompasses a very wide variety of experiences that affect emotions, mood, thinking, or behavior, including common afflictions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders to more severe ones that affect a person’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret reality to varying degrees, such as body dysmorphia or schizophrenia. Even drug addiction is considered a mental illness.

Mental illness is a lot more common than you might think, it’s just that a lot of people don’t talk about it because of the stigmas associated with it. There’s been a concerted effort in the last few years to destigmatize mental illness and create a more pervasive conversation around how common of an experience it is. It is estimated that 19% of adults in the US experience some type of mental illness in any given year. I have personally experienced disordered eating, body dysmorphia, PTSD/C-PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Mental illness doesn’t have to be something permanent. All of us experience emotional ills in the form of depression and anxiety from time to time, just like we might catch a cold every couple of years. Other mental health issues which are more long standing in nature, or which appear to be so deeply ingrained that they are almost a part of someone’s personality may be classified as some kind of disorder.

Spirituality and Mental Illness

In the mainstream, the same stigma applied to mental illness is often applied to spiritual experiences, both of which induce shame. There’s some merit to the idea that at least some aspect of some mental illness is more so a spiritual disease than a physical one–or that some things which are classified as symptoms of mental illness are actually spiritual in nature. The idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is a myth that was popularized by pharmaceutical companies to sell prescription antidepressants. In reality, psychiatry in general recognizes that disorders are not strictly chemical in nature, but are the result of a complex combination of physical, psychological, and social factors.

If you define spirituality the way that I do, as the intersection between science, psychology, and philosophy (which includes sociology), that means that mental illness does overlap with spirituality. The fact that social and psychological factors (i.e. trauma) are involved means that spirituality is part of a holistic approach to viewing mental illness. It also means that prescription drugs can be an effective and helpful aspect of treatment, when they are administered responsibly as part of a balanced approach.

Psychology only knows what something presents as on the outside. Psychology does not fully understand that different presentations of “symptoms” may have multiple causes, some of which may actually be completely normal manifestations of psychic activity rather than delusions brought on by mental illness. It’s a very complex subject and we have to use a great deal of discernment in our approach to undrestand our own experiences and those of others.

The problem is that we don’t necessarily have a balanced, holistic approach to mental health at the moment.

There’s a tendency toward over-medication on the clinical side that is a result of a culture that wants an easy way out in the form of a pill that will fix everything rather than addressing the personal, social, and cultural factors that largely contribute to trauma at the root of much mental illness.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a lot of anti-science people in the spiritual community who view the pharmaceutical industry as evil, and by proxy, the doctors who prescribe them, and they completely dismiss the decades of scientific research behind drug discovery. In other words, they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Their real problem is with business practices in the pharmaceutical industry, not the science. Their problem is with unregulated capitalism, not science. Science’s only agenda is discovery.

That lack of distinction in the spiritual community not only leads to a lot of very harmful misinformation and propaganda during times of global health crises, but it also leads people who are experiencing mental health issues to believe that their experiences are actually (only) spiritual in nature, and thus, they don’t even recognize the need to seek professional help.

Narcissism and Spirituality

As I mentioned earlier, there are some forms of mental illness which affect a person’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret reality to varying degrees, and some of these mental illnesses cripple that individual’s ability to even recognize their own mental illness. Narcissism is one of those mental illnesses, and, along with sociopathy/psychopathy, is a mental illness that lends itself to a desire to hold power over others. Because of this, people with these kinds of mental illnesses are disproportionately attracted to positions of power.

For example, between .5% and 1% of the total population is estimated to have a narcissistic personality (of which 50% to 75% are male), however, various studies suggest that anywhere between 4% and 20% of people in leadership roles are narcissistic personalities, and that proportion may be on the higher end in areas where that leadership is self-appointed, such as with social media influencers.

Learn how to spot spiritual leaders with these kinds of personalities.

This doesn’t just apply to New Age spirituality, it also applies to religion. Prime example:

My dad exhibits signs of undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

In 2015 or so, he started saying really odd things. He first told me that he invented a generator that produced free energy. Then he told me how he was experimenting with growing plants by putting essential oils on them. Then he started texting me and telling me to take all of my money out of the bank and buy enough food to last for six months because Jesus was coming back in October and the stock market was going to crash and there was going to be martial law… (which is not unlike the doomsday fears of QAnon adherents after Biden’s inauguration).

 

Eventually he started his own church where he spoke in tongues and believed he had the power to cast demons out of people. Most of the congregation was made up of drug addicts and people who’ve been in and out of jail. In other words, vulnerable people looking for acceptance.

 

“God” told him that he was going to start a revival that would unite all church denominations and go on until the rapture came. He believes he has divine revelations that other people do not have access to.

 

Anybody who didn’t obey him, particularly if it was a woman, was “rebellious” and had a demon because “to follow the man is to follow god” and he would systematically begin to discredit them and attempt to turn others against them.

 

He believed that he had the ability to heal people, and told me how he healed a pastor from cancer.

 

Then he ambushed me in a public parking lot and attempted to cast a demon out of me… because I was getting a divorce. He was having an out-loud, two-way conversation with the “demon” that he believed had hold over me.

 

At the height of the pandemic in the spring, he started texting me (again) telling me how this was the end times and martial law was going to be declared. “Watch. I will be right.”

I’ve recounted in a couple of posts an encounter I had with a guy who exhibited similar behavior which you can read here. That actually occurred before everything went down with my dad, so I had a sense of what it was as it was happening.

Both of them are preying on people who are in vulnerable states by abusing their self-appointed spiritual authority, and this happens within the spiritual community frequently.

Learn how to spot spiritual abuse.

Aside from the two stories above, I’ve witnessed countless other examples of this kind of mental illness and spiritual abuse.

When I first began my spiritual path, I found a sense of community with a Facebook group built around another blogger who was writing and posting about channeling. Eventually, that blogger themselves demonstrated signs of mental illness and many many many people in the group (which was a few thousand people) did as well.

There were people in this group who believed they were being physically attacked at night by spirits. There were people who believed they were being sexually molested by spirits. There were people in the group who believed they were the reincarnation of religious and historical figures. There were people who believed that dead celebrities were their twin flames. There were several (I forget where the count ended, but I think it was somewhere around six at the time I left) women who believed that the spirit being channeled was their twin flame. Some of them posted regularly in the group about perceived sexual experiences they were having with said channeled entity, some of them went on to become alleged channelers themselves and pass along messages to other people in the group from this channeled entity, some of which included telling those people they were demonically possessed.

It was a very common occurrence for someone to come into the group completely green to psychic development and spirituality, and within a matter of weeks or just a couple of months, be giving people psychic readings and spiritual advice, without having any prolonged experience, integration, or any depth of shadow work. Many of them used their self-appointed positions of power to shame or dismiss people who disagreed with them. It’s my understanding that one of those people eventually went on to develop a large following and claimed she was impregnated by archangel Michael and gave birth to a spirit baby.

Learn what you must do before pursuing psychic development.

There were a number of people in the group who were there because they’d lost someone and were looking for answers about the afterlife, and their grief and desperation made many of them prime targets for manipulation by narcissistic personalities.

*** Trigger warning: the following discusses themes around depression and suicide.***

As a member of that group, I personally talked to at least five people who were contemplating suicide. More than a couple of members of that group eventually succeeded. One of them was a young kid, around 20 years old, who told me he’d been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He thought the government was tracking his movements and was suspicious of taking his medication.

He went on and on about things he’d read online, how he’d met his twin flame two weeks prior, and he knew it was his twin flame because he took an online quiz that said so, and it was crystal clear that he had absolutely no sense of discernment–he believed everything he read related to spirituality, word for word, and didn’t question any of it. I tried to convince him that it was okay to take his medication and that he should listen to his parents and doctor. The last time I talked to him, he told me “I’m getting off of this planet before it blows,” and deactivated his Facebook account. To this day, I don’t know if his parents had him committed or if he killed himself.

The problem with this group was that there were very few people in it who had any length of experience with spirituality or mental health. There was no one to ground the group or present alternative points of view–and many times, if an alternate point of view was presented, the group attacked that person–so people who were not familiar with how some forms of mental illness present had no handle bars, either, and were left up to their own devices to try to discern whether or not these people were the real deal. This left them incredibly vulnerable to misinformation, manipulation, and abuse.

Learn how discernment is is key for a grounded form of spirituality.

A number of those people had also experienced serious trauma, including sexual abuse. A lot of the spiritual concepts being talked about were over-simplified and positioned victims as being responsible for their abuse. I don’t need to tell any survivor just how damaging that is, but for those of you reading who do not understand trauma: survivors of abuse often already feel responsible for their abuse. They don’t need spiritual people telling them how they manifested it.

You’ll see a lot of information online that truly vilifies narcissists and sociopaths. In terms of those who’ve been abused by them, the feelings are certainly warranted and a part of the healing process. I would never, ever tell a victim of abuse that they have to forgive their abuser, that they shouldn’t judge their abuser, or that they need to have compassion for their abuser. That said, it is possible others who are not in that position to look at narcissism through a compassionate lens.

Not everyone with mental illness falls into this kind of delusion, but it’s tricky.

I don’t doubt that many of these people are having some spiritual experiences, because all of us do. The problem is not with their experience in and of itself, but rather, their ability to accurately interpret those experiences and discern between what is spiritual in nature and what is a result of the mental illness. The line between those things is not always clear cut.

I’m very happy to be able to give you some perspective on this nuance by including a Q&A from a friend of mine–who for the purposes of anonymity, were going to call Ocey–who is both a member of the spiritual community and someone who has been living with symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

What’s your spiritual practice and how you identify within that?

I’m a follower of Hekate. I see her as the manifestation of Source, of the divine consciousness that permeates all things. I’m also a traditional witch with my practice almost exclusively focusing on shadow and spirit work, as opposed to spell work.

My specific practices are always changing and evolving but I try to regularly spend time in study, in meditation, and creating some kind of art. Recently my practice has been focused on studying comparative mythology and sociology in a way to try to better understand the universe and my role in it.

What is it like living with DID?

I’m so nervous to even talk on the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) because the community isn’t a forgiving one. There’s much debate about what qualifies as official DID and the legitimacy of a self-diagnosis, so I want to say up front I have not been officially diagnosed as DID, although that’s partly by choice, as my therapist has recognized it and is treating me for it. And technically I would be diagnosed as OSDD, Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder, which is a catch-all category of diagnosing for cases who don’t meet the exact criteria for DID.

Dissociative Identity Disorder use to be called ‘multiple personality disorder’ but the name was changed in 1994 to better describe the disorder. It’s not a personality disorder but a dissociative one caused by childhood trauma.

My DID is pretty subtle compared to other cases I’ve read and heard about. I basically experience my consciousness as being multiple. While there are “Others” inside my brain, they mostly feel like me, just “other me’s”. I’ve done a lot of work the past year to try to understand it all better and it’s felt like shadow work boot camp. But we [meaning all identities] are working on understanding triggers and what they mean to us as a single individual. I’m constantly working on ways to express all parts of myself and giving every side a voice, because it seems to be soothing of the symptoms which can range from black outs/missing time to complete breakdowns where I’ll experience paranoia and psychosis. It’s hard but I’m lucky to have a safe place at home and in therapy to try to work through it all. And I count myself lucky because like I said, DID is a spectrum and there are some who suffer from daily amnesia and depersonalization.

Back when you didn’t know you had DID, how did you interpret it through your spiritual lens?

My Others were always very real to me and because of the nature of it and because I was raised in a strict Christian household, I struggled with faith and spirituality my entire life.

Along with having these Others existing inside me, I’ve also experienced interactions with the spirit world my whole life. So before I was aware of the mental aspects of some of what was happening to me, I categorized it all as the same nature.. which was scary. I wasn’t able to separate or distinguish between hallucinations and apparitions, or paranoia and intuition. It was hard to decide what it was I actually believed because my experiences didn’t all make sense together.

When I first kind of put it together that DID is what I’ve been experiencing it was a huge shock. I had a little breakdown. But soon after a lot of things I’ve always struggled with started making sense. Before I had a name for what was happening, I knew there was something. I’ve spent almost the entirety of my adult life trying to understand myself.

It wasn’t until I was married for a few years and had settled down in life when things started becoming apparently amiss. I was realizing there would be huge gaps in the information I knew about myself and my life and gaps in memories, and mostly, my life felt as if I had just been dropped off there yesterday and often felt alien to me.

I was extremely paranoid and had psychosis symptoms, but refused to acknowledge them as anything but spiritual. But, I wasn’t always “myself” so spirituality wasn’t always a consistent part of my life. The fact that I couldn’t explain to myself why I’d go months, years, without having a spiritual care in the world and then suddenly feeling as if that’s all my life is about, really held me back spiritually. I thought I must just be wishy washy and not really care or believe. But the constant contact with spirits and the constant feeling of missing my life or feeling like I’m going through parts of it asleep, left me in a dark place.

I found witchcraft sometime around 2007 and paganism around 2012 and they both set me on a course of self discovery. My entire spiritual practice for the past almost 15 years has basically been just shadow work. And it has led me to where I am now.

And I’m still everyday carefully combing through my thoughts and experiences trying to make sure I categorize them appropriately, because while I believe mental health and spirituality are very closely linked there’s still a distinction and I try hard to make sure I’m making one consciously.

How did you reframe that perspective after you figured this was a mental health issue and how do you navigate your spiritual experiences now?

The hardest part of all of this has been trying to make a distinction between what’s spiritual and what’s mental. A lot of it is inseparable. The biggest way I’d say I’ve reframed my approach to both is I strive for perspective and verification. I realize now that I may have multiple perspectives on something and instead of making a decision or forming a belief based off only a part of how I feel, I make sure to take into account all sides of me. Even when it comes to how I practice my witchcraft and experiences that seem spiritual in nature, I have a process I go through to verify to myself how I should personally categorize it and if it deserves more attention, and the nature of attention I give to it. And I also have a couple trusted people that I share my experiences with and try to get outside perspective on their nature.

The biggest difference to how I go about my spirituality and life in general is now I have an understanding of how things in a person’s past can manifest themselves later in life.

I believe a person’s trauma can manifest in a damaging way if left untreated. I choose to view my situation through a spiritual lens to give me a framework of how to go about healing myself. I spend a lot of time fighting my own personal demons and am slowly working on recognizing, accepting, and healing old wounds.

A big change I’ve made to my spiritual practice after taking my mental health into account is how I apply it to the world and if/how to share that with others. I’ve come to learn that some things I experience are unique to me and cannot necessarily be applied to the collective reality. So I try to make sure I have more discernment with the things I share and how I share them, and am constantly questioning the decisions and opinions I make to make sure I understand where they’re coming from.

How has spirituality helped you understand your experiences from a mental health perspective?

When I first realized I had DID I lost all faith. I was devastated because I thought this meant that all of my experiences were nothing more than a fantasy created by a mental disorder. It shook me. I spent half a year just navigating that. Eventually I came to the conclusion, with the help of a very special part of me named Joan, that it was up to me how I decide to view this. I could choose to see only the medical/psychological side of it, renounce all my beliefs–or I could choose to also see the spiritual side. If anything, that short time when I lost faith in everything showed me how fulfilling and comforting a spiritual practice can be.

What’s some advice you’d give someone who might be struggling with something like this unknowingly?

My main advice to everyone is to recognize that mental health is just as important as spiritual and physical health. We live in a world now that offers us a lot of different approaches to life and our problems and I think the best way to go about it is to try to maintain a balance between science and spirituality. I think my spiritual practice is crucial in my healing but I also see the benefit and necessity of taking my meds and seeing my therapist regularly.

DID is tricky to notice even within yourself. The entire purpose of the disorder is to hide things from yourself as a survival mechanism. But it is typically known to start showing noticeable signs when you’ve reached a point in life where you’re “settled” and your psyche starts to feel like it’s a safe time to start unpacking all its baggage. My advice is if you have any doubts or questions about your experiences or sense of being, then reach out. Find a therapist who is open to your personal spiritual beliefs and find a support group of people who are having or had had similar experiences. Also shadow work is everything. I feel everyone, even those who may not be suffering from mental health issues can greatly benefit from it.

Scientific American: A new paper argues that DID may help us explain the nature of reality. 

I just have to say that I’m in such awe of how strong this woman is, and how she’s gone about handling this. I honestly started crying when I read her responses to my questions, because even though she’s having to work harder than the average human to navigate the world within her, she’s doing it with so much integrity.

We talked about how there is an opportunity here for her to share her experiences and help others who are struggling with these kinds of things and she said, “I hope to eventually be in a place where I can help others with stuff like this from what I’ve learned. But I want to make sure I’ve learned enough before I start really trying to help others.”

And that, my friends, is the balance that all of us need to strike.

Xo,

Ash

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